ENGLAND AND ITALY.
JOHN RICHARD GREEN.
LONDON: MACMILLAN AND CO. 1876.
LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.
I have to thank the Editors of Macmillan's Magazine and the Saturday Review for allowing me to reprint most of the papers in this series. In many cases however I have greatly changed their original form. A few pages will be found to repeat what I have already said in my 'Short History.'
A BROTHER OF THE POOR 1
SKETCHES IN SUNSHINE:—
I. CANNES AND ST. HONORAT 31 II. CARNIVAL ON THE CORNICE 44 III. TWO PIRATE TOWNS OF THE RIVIERA 59 IV. THE WINTER RETREAT 71 V. SAN REMO 79
THE POETRY OF WEALTH 93
LAMBETH AND THE ARCHBISHOPS 107
CHILDREN BY THE SEA 167
THE FLORENCE OF DANTE 181
ABBOT AND TOWN 211
HOTELS IN THE CLOUDS 241
AENEAS: A VERGILIAN STUDY 257
TWO VENETIAN STUDIES:—
I. VENICE AND ROME 289 II. VENICE AND TINTORETTO 300
THE DISTRICT VISITOR 313
THE EARLY HISTORY OF OXFORD 329
THE HOME OF OUR ANGEVIN KINGS 359
CAPRI AND ITS ROMAN REMAINS 395
THE FEAST OF THE CORAL-FISHERS 414
A BROTHER OF THE POOR.
There are few stiller things than the stillness of a summer's noon such as this, a summer's noon in a broken woodland, with the deer asleep in the bracken, and the twitter of birds silent in the coppice, and hardly a leaf astir in the huge beeches that fling their cool shade over the grass. Afar off a gilded vane flares out above the grey Jacobean gables of Knoll, the chime of a village clock falls faintly on the ear, but there is no voice or footfall of living thing to break the silence as I turn over leaf after leaf of the little book I have brought with me from the bustle of town to this still retreat, a book that is the record of a broken life, of a life "broken off," as he who lived it says of another, "with a ragged edge."
It is a book that carries one far from the woodland stillness around into the din and turmoil of cities and men, into the misery and degradation of "the East-end,"—that "London without London," as some one called it the other day. Few regions are more unknown than the Tower Hamlets. Not even Mrs. Riddell has ventured as yet to cross the border which parts the City from their weltering mass of busy life, their million of hard workers packed together in endless rows of monotonous streets, broken only by shipyard or factory or huge breweries, streets that stretch away eastward from Aldgate to the Essex marshes. And yet, setting aside the poetry of life which is everywhere, there is poetry enough in East London; poetry in the great river which washes it on the south, in the fretted tangle of cordage and mast that peeps over the roofs of Shadwell or in the great hulls moored along the wharves of Wapping; poetry in the "Forest" that fringes it to the east, in the few glades that remain of Epping and Hainault,—glades ringing with the shouts of school-children out for their holiday and half mad with delight at the sight of a flower or a butterfly; poetry of the present in the work and toil of these acres of dull bricks and mortar where everybody, man woman and child, is a worker, this England without a "leisure class"; poetry in the thud of the steam-engine and the white trail of steam from the tall sugar refinery, in the blear eyes of the Spitalfields weaver, or the hungering faces of the group of labourers clustered from morning till night round the gates of the docks and watching for the wind that brings the ships up the river: poetry in its past, in strange old-fashioned squares, in quaint gabled houses, in grey village churches, that have been caught and overlapped and lost, as it were, in the great human advance that has carried London forward from Whitechapel, its limit in the age of the Georges, to Stratford, its bound in that of Victoria.
Stepney is a belated village of this sort; its grey old church of St. Dunstan, buried as it is now in the very heart of East London, stood hardly a century ago among the fields. All round it lie tracts of human life without a past; but memories cluster thickly round "Old Stepney," as the people call it with a certain fond reverence, memories of men like Erasmus and Colet and the group of scholars in whom the Reformation began. It was to the country house of the Dean of St. Paul's, hard by the old church of St. Dunstan, that Erasmus betook him when tired of the smoke and din of town. "I come to drink your fresh air, my Colet," he writes, "to drink yet deeper of your rural peace." The fields and hedges through which Erasmus loved to ride remained fields and hedges within living memory; only forty years ago a Londoner took his Sunday outing along the field path which led past the London Hospital to what was still the suburban village church of Stepney. But the fields through which the path led have their own church now, with its parish of dull straight streets of monotonous houses already marked with premature decay, and here and there alleys haunted by poverty and disease and crime.
There is nothing marked about either church or district; their character and that of their people are of the commonest East-end type. If I ask my readers to follow me to this parish of St. Philip, it is simply because these dull streets and alleys were chosen by a brave and earnest man as the scene of his work among the poor. It was here that Edward Denison settled in the autumn of 1867, in the second year of the great "East London Distress." In the October of 1869 he left England on a fatal voyage from which he was never to return. The collection of his letters which has been recently printed by Sir Baldwyn Leighton has drawn so much attention to the work which lay within the narrow bounds of those two years that I may perhaps be pardoned for recalling my own memories of one whom it is hard to forget.
A few words are enough to tell the tale of his earlier days. Born in 1840, the son of a bishop, and nephew of the late Speaker of the House of Commons, Edward Denison passed from Eton to Christchurch, and was forced after quitting the University to spend some time in foreign travel by the delicacy of his health. His letters give an interesting picture of his mind during this pause in an active life, a pause which must have been especially distasteful to one whose whole bent lay from the first in the direction of practical energy. "I believe," he says in his later days, "that abstract political speculation is my metier;" but few minds were in reality less inclined to abstract speculation. From the very first one sees in him what one may venture to call the best kind of "Whig" mind, that peculiar temper of fairness and moderation which declines to push conclusions to extremes, and recoils instinctively when opinion is extended beyond its proper bound. His comment on Newman's 'Apologia' paints his real intellectual temper with remarkable precision. "I left off reading Newman's 'Apologia' before I got to the end, tired of the ceaseless changes of the writer's mind, and vexed with his morbid scruples—perhaps, too, having got a little out of harmony myself with the feelings of the author, whereas I began by being in harmony with them. I don't quite know whether to esteem it a blessing or a curse; but whenever an opinion to which I am a recent convert, or which I do not hold with the entire force of my intellect, is forced too strongly upon me, or driven home to its logical conclusion, or over-praised, or extended beyond its proper limits, I recoil instinctively and begin to gravitate towards the other extreme, sure to be in turn repelled by it also."
I dwell on this temper of his mind because it is this practical and moderate character of the man which gives such weight to the very sweeping conclusions on social subjects to which he was driven in his later days. A judgment which condemns the whole system of Poor Laws, for instance, falls with very different weight from a mere speculative theorist and from a practical observer whose mind is constitutionally averse from extreme conclusions. Throughout however we see this intellectual moderation jostling with a moral fervour which feels restlessly about for a fitting sphere of action. "Real life," he writes from Madeira, "is not dinner-parties and small talk, nor even croquet and dancing." There is a touch of exaggeration in phrases like these which need not blind us to the depth and reality of the feeling which they imperfectly express, a feeling which prompted the question which embodies the spirit of all these earlier letters,—the question, "What is my work?"
The answer to this question was found both within and without the questioner. Those who were young in the weary days of Palmerstonian rule will remember the disgust at purely political life which was produced by the bureaucratic inaction of the time, and we can hardly wonder that, like many of the finer minds among his contemporaries, Edward Denison turned from the political field which was naturally open to him to the field of social effort. His tendency in this direction was aided, no doubt, partly by the intensity of this religious feeling and of his consciousness of the duty he owed to the poor, and partly by that closer sympathy with the physical suffering around us which is one of the most encouraging characteristics of the day. Even in the midst of his outburst of delight at a hard frost ("I like," he says, "the bright sunshine that generally accompanies it, the silver landscape, and the ringing distinctness of sounds in the frozen air"), we see him haunted by a sense of the way in which his pleasure contrasts with the winter misery of the poor. "I would rather give up all the pleasures of the frost than indulge them, poisoned as they are by the misery of so many of our brothers. What a monstrous thing it is that in the richest country in the world large masses of the population should be condemned annually to starvation and death!" It is easy to utter protests like these in the spirit of a mere sentimentalist; it is less easy to carry them out into practical effort, as Edward Denison resolved to do. After an unsatisfactory attempt to act as Almoner for the Society for the Relief of Distress, he resolved to fix himself personally in the East-end of London, and study the great problem of pauperism face to face.
His resolve sprang from no fit of transient enthusiasm, but from a sober conviction of the need of such a step. "There are hardly any residents in the East rich enough to give much money, or with enough leisure to give much time," he says. "This is the evil. Even the best disposed in the West don't like coming so far off, and, indeed, few have the time to spare, and when they do there is great waste of time and energy on the journey. My plan is the only really practicable one, and as I have both means, time, and inclination, I should be a thief and a murderer if I withheld what I so evidently owe." In the autumn of 1867 he carried out his resolve, and took lodgings in the heart of the parish which I sketched in the opening of this paper. If any romantic dreams had mixed with his resolution they at once faded away before the dull, commonplace reality. "I saw nothing very striking at Stepney," is his first comment on the sphere he had chosen. But he was soon satisfied with his choice. He took up in a quiet, practical way the work he found closest at hand. "All is yet in embryo, but it will grow. Just now I only teach in a night school, and do what in me lies in looking after the sick, keeping an eye upon nuisances and the like, seeing that the local authorities keep up to their work. I go to-morrow before the Board at the workhouse to compel the removal to the infirmary of a man who ought to have been there already. I shall drive the sanitary inspector to put the Act against overcrowding in force." Homely work of this sort grows on him; we see him in these letters getting boys out to sea, keeping school with little urchins,—"demons of misrule" who tried his temper,—gathering round him a class of working men, organizing an evening club for boys. All this, too, quietly and unostentatiously and with as little resort as possible to "cheap charity," as he used to call it, to the "doles of bread and meat which only do the work of poor-rates."
So quiet and simple indeed was his work that though it went on in the parish of which I then had the charge it was some little time before I came to know personally the doer of it. It is amusing even now to recollect my first interview with Edward Denison. A vicar's Monday morning is never the pleasantest of awakenings, but the Monday morning of an East-end vicar brings worries that far eclipse the mere headache and dyspepsia of his rural brother. It is the "parish morning." All the complicated machinery of a great ecclesiastical, charitable, and educational organization has got to be wound up afresh, and set going again for another week. The superintendent of the Women's Mission is waiting with a bundle of accounts, complicated as only ladies' accounts can be. The churchwarden has come with a face full of gloom to consult on the falling off in the offertory. The Scripture-reader has brought his "visiting book" to be inspected, and a special report on the character of a doubtful family in the parish. The organist drops in to report something wrong in the pedals. There is a letter to be written to the inspector of nuisances, directing his attention to certain odoriferous drains in Pig-and-Whistle Alley. The nurse brings her sick-list and her little bill for the sick-kitchen. The schoolmaster wants a fresh pupil-teacher, and discusses nervously the prospects of his scholars in the coming inspection. There is the interest on the penny bank to be calculated, a squabble in the choir to be adjusted, a district visitor to be replaced, reports to be drawn up for the Bishop's Fund and a great charitable society, the curate's sick-list to be inspected, and a preacher to be found for the next church festival.
It was in the midst of a host of worries such as these that a card was laid on my table with a name which I recognized as that of a young layman from the West-end, who had for two or three months past been working in the mission district attached to the parish. Now, whatever shame is implied in the confession, I had a certain horror of "laymen from the West-end." Lay co-operation is an excellent thing in itself, and one of my best assistants was a letter-sorter in the post-office close by; but the "layman from the West-end," with a bishop's letter of recommendation in his pocket and a head full of theories about "heathen masses," was an unmitigated nuisance. I had a pretty large experience of these gentlemen, and my one wish in life was to have no more. Some had a firm belief in their own eloquence, and were zealous for a big room and a big congregation. I got them the big room, but I was obliged to leave the big congregation to their own exertions, and in a month or two their voices faded away. Then there was the charitable layman, who pounced down on the parish from time to time and threw about meat and blankets till half of the poor were demoralized. Or there was the statistical layman, who went about with a note-book and did spiritual and economical sums in the way of dividing the number of "people in the free seats" by the number of bread tickets annually distributed. There was the layman with a passion for homoeopathy, the ritualistic layman, the layman with a mania for preaching down trades' unions, the layman with an educational mania. All however agreed in one point, much as they differed in others, and the one point was that of a perfect belief in their individual nostrums and perfect contempt for all that was already doing in the neighbourhood.
It was with no peculiar pleasure therefore that I rose to receive this fresh "layman from the West"; but a single glance was enough to show me that my visitor was a man of very different stamp from his predecessors. There was something in the tall, manly figure, the bright smile, the frank winning address of Edward Denison that inspired confidence in a moment. "I come to learn, and not to teach," he laughed, as I hinted at "theories" and their danger; and our talk soon fell on a certain "John's Place," where he thought there was a great deal to be learned. In five minutes more we stood in the spot which interested him, an alley running between two mean streets, and narrowing at one end till we crept out of it as if through the neck of a bottle. It was by no means the choicest part of the parish: the drainage was imperfect, the houses miserable; but wretched as it was it was a favourite haunt of the poor, and it swarmed with inhabitants of very various degrees of respectability. Costermongers abounded, strings of barrows were drawn up on the pavement, and the refuse of their stock lay rotting in the gutter. Drunken sailors and Lascars from the docks rolled along shouting to its houses of ill-fame. There was little crime, though one of the "ladies" of the alley was a well-known receiver of stolen goods, but there was a good deal of drunkenness and vice. Now and then a wife came plumping on to the pavement from a window overhead; sometimes a couple of viragoes fought out their quarrel "on the stones"; boys idled about in the sunshine in training to be pickpockets; miserable girls flaunted in dirty ribbons at nightfall at half-a-dozen doors.
But with all this the place was popular with even respectable working people in consequence of the small size and cheapness of the houses—for there is nothing the poor like so much as a house to themselves; and the bulk of its population consisted of casual labourers, who gathered every morning round the great gates of the docks, waiting to be "called in" as the ships came up to unload. The place was naturally unhealthy, constantly haunted by fever, and had furnished some hundred cases in the last visitation of cholera. The work done among them in the "cholera time" had never been forgotten by the people, and, ill-famed as the place was, I visited it at all times of the day and night with perfect security. The apostle however of John's Place was my friend the letter-sorter. He had fixed on it as his special domain, and with a little aid from others had opened a Sunday-school and simple Sunday services in the heart of it. A branch of the Women's Mission was established in the same spot, and soon women were "putting by" their pence and sewing quietly round the lady superintendent as she read to them the stories of the Gospels.
It was this John's Place which Edward Denison chose as the centre of his operations. There was very little in his manner to show his sense of the sacrifice he was making, though the sacrifice was in reality a great one. No one enjoyed more keenly the pleasures of life and society: he was a good oarsman, he delighted in outdoor exercise, and skating was to him "a pleasure only rivalled in my affection by a ride across country on a good horse." But month after month these pleasures were quietly put aside for his work in the East-end. "I have come to this," he says, laughingly, "that a walk along Piccadilly is a most exhilarating and delightful treat. I don't enjoy it above once in ten days, but therefore with double zest." What told on him most was the physical depression induced by the very look of these vast, monotonous masses of sheer poverty. "My wits are getting blunted," he says, "by the monotony and ugliness of this place. I can almost imagine, difficult as it is, the awful effect upon a human mind of never seeing anything but the meanest and vilest of men and men's works, and of complete exclusion from the sight of God and His works,—a position in which the villager never is." But there was worse than physical degradation. "This summer there is not so very much actual suffering for want of food, nor from sickness. What is so bad is the habitual condition of this mass of humanity—its uniform mean level, the absence of anything more civilizing than a grinding organ to raise the ideas beyond the daily bread and beer, the utter want of education, the complete indifference to religion, with the fruits of all this—improvidence, dirt, and their secondaries, crime and disease."
Terrible however as these evils were, he believed they could be met; and the quiet good sense of his character was shown in the way in which he met them. His own residence in the East-end was the most effective of protests against that severance of class from class in which so many of its evils take their rise. When speaking of the overcrowding and the official ill-treatment of the poor, he says truly: "These are the sort of evils which, where there are no resident gentry, grow to a height almost incredible, and on which the remedial influence of the mere presence of a gentleman known to be on the alert is inestimable." But nothing, as I often had occasion to remark, could be more judicious than his interference on behalf of the poor, or more unlike the fussy impertinence of the philanthropists who think themselves born "to expose" Boards of Guardians. His aim throughout was to co-operate with the Guardians in giving, not less, but greater effect to the Poor Laws, and in resisting the sensational writing and reckless abuse which aim at undoing their work. "The gigantic subscription lists which are regarded as signs of our benevolence," he says truly, "are monuments of our indifference."
The one hope for the poor, he believed, lay not in charity, but in themselves. "Build school-houses, pay teachers, give prizes, frame workmen's clubs, help them to help themselves, lend them your brains; but give them no money, except what you sink in such undertakings as above." This is not the place to describe or discuss the more detailed suggestions with which he faced the great question of poverty and pauperism in the East-end; they are briefly summarized in a remarkable letter which he addressed in 1869 to an East-end newspaper:—"First we must so discipline and regulate our charities as to cut off the resources of the habitual mendicant. Secondly, all who by begging proclaim themselves destitute, must be taken at their word. They must be taken up and kept at penal work—not for one morning, as now, but for a month or two; a proportion of their earnings being handed over to them on dismissal, as capital on which to begin a life of honest industry. Thirdly, we must promote the circulation of labour, and obviate morbid congestions of the great industrial centres. Fourthly, we must improve the condition of the agricultural poor." Stern as such suggestions may seem, there are few who have really thought as well as worked for the poor without feeling that sternness of this sort is, in the highest sense, mercy. Ten years in the East of London had brought me to the same conclusions; and my Utopia, like Edward Denison's, lay wholly in a future to be worked out by the growing intelligence and thrift of the labouring classes themselves.
But stern as were his theories, there is hardly a home within his district that has not some memory left of the love and tenderness of his personal charity. I hardly like to tell how often I have seen the face of the sick and dying brighten as he drew near, or how the little children, as they flocked out of school, would run to him, shouting his name for very glee. For the Sunday-school was soon transformed by his efforts into a day-school for children, whose parents were really unable to pay school-fees; and a large schoolroom, erected near John's Place, was filled with dirty little scholars. Here too he gathered round him a class of working men, to whom he lectured on the Bible every Wednesday evening; and here he delivered addresses to the dock-labourers whom he had induced to attend, of a nature somewhat startling to those who talk of "preaching down to the intelligence of the poor." I give the sketch of one of these sermons (on "Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together") in his own words:—"I presented Christianity as a society; investigated the origin of societies, the family, the tribe, the nation, with the attendant expanded ideas of rights and duties; the common weal, the bond of union; rising from the family dinner-table to the sacrificial rites of the national gods; drew parallels with trades' unions and benefit clubs, and told them flatly they would not be Christians till they were communicants." No doubt this will seem to most sensible people extravagant enough, even without the quotations from "Wordsworth, Tennyson, and even Pope" with which his addresses were enlivened; but I must confess that my own experience among the poor agrees pretty much with Edward Denison's, and that I believe "high thinking" put into plain English to be more likely to tell on a dock-yard labourer than all the "simple Gospel sermons" in the world.
His real power however for good among the poor lay not so much in what he did as in what he was. It is in no spirit of class self-sufficiency that he dwells again and again throughout these letters on the advantages to such a neighbourhood of the presence of a "gentleman" in the midst of it. He lost little, in the end he gained much, by the resolute stand he made against the indiscriminate almsgiving which has done so much to create and encourage pauperism in the East of London. The poor soon came to understand the man who was as liberal with his sympathy as he was chary of meat and coal tickets, who only aimed at being their friend, at listening to their troubles, and aiding them with counsel, as if he were one of themselves, at putting them in the way of honest work, at teaching their children, at protecting them with a perfect courage and chivalry against oppression and wrong. He instinctively appealed in fact to their higher nature, and such an appeal seldom remains unanswered. In the roughest costermonger there is a vein of real nobleness, often even of poetry, in which lies the whole chance of his rising to a better life. I remember, as an instance of the way in which such a vein can be touched, the visit of a lady, well known for her work in the poorer districts of London, to a low alley in this very parish. She entered the little mission-room with a huge basket, filled not with groceries or petticoats, but with roses. There was hardly one pale face among the women bending over their sewing that did not flush with delight as she distributed her gifts. Soon, as the news spread down the alley, rougher faces peered in at window and door, and great "navvies" and dock-labourers put out their hard fists for a rosebud with the shyness and delight of schoolboys. "She was a real lady," was the unanimous verdict of the alley; like Edward Denison she had somehow discovered that man does not live by bread alone, and that the communion of rich and poor is not to be found in appeals to the material but to the spiritual side of man.
"What do you look on as the greatest boon that has been conferred on the poorer classes in later years?" said a friend to me one day, after expatiating on the rival claims of schools, missions, shoe-black brigades, and a host of other philanthropic efforts for their assistance. I am afraid I sank in his estimation when I answered, "Sixpenny photographs." But any one who knows what the worth of family affection is among the lower classes, and who has seen the array of little portraits stuck over a labourer's fireplace, still gathering together into one the "home" that life is always parting—the boy that has "gone to Canada," the girl "out at service," the little one with the golden hair that sleeps under the daisies, the old grandfather in the country—will perhaps feel with me that in counteracting the tendencies, social and industrial, which every day are sapping the healthier family affections, the sixpenny photograph is doing more for the poor than all the philanthropists in the world.
It is easy indeed to resolve on "helping" the poor; but it is far less easy to see clearly how we can help them, what is real aid, and what is mere degradation. I know few books where any one who is soberly facing questions like these can find more help than in the "Letters" of Edward Denison. Broken and scattered as his hints necessarily appear, the main lines along which his thought moves are plain enough. He would discriminate between temporary, and chronic distress, between the poverty caused by a sudden revolution of trade and permanent destitution such as that of Bethnal Green. The first requires exceptional treatment; the second a rigid and universal administration of the Poor Laws. "Bring back the Poor Law," he repeats again and again, "to the spirit of its institution; organize a sufficiently elastic labour test, without which no outdoor relief to be given; make the few alterations which altered times demand, and impose every possible discouragement on private benevolence." The true cure for pauperism lies in the growth of thrift among the poor. "I am not drawing the least upon my imagination when I say that a young man of twenty could in five years, even as a dock-labourer, which is much the lowest employment and least well paid there is, save about L20. This is not exactly Utopia; it is within the reach of nearly every man, if quite at the bottom of the tree; but if it were of anything like common occurrence the destitution and disease of this life would be within manageable limits."
I know that words like these are in striking contrast with the usual public opinion on the subject, as well as with the mere screeching over poverty in which sentimentalists are in the habit of indulging. But it is fair to say that they entirely coincide with my own experience. The sight which struck me most in Stepney was one which met my eyes when I plunged by sheer accident into the back-yard of a jobbing carpenter, and came suddenly upon a neat greenhouse with fine flowers inside it. The man had built it with his own hands and his own savings; and the sight of it had so told on his next-door neighbour—a cobbler, if I remember rightly—as to induce him to leave off drinking, and build a rival greenhouse with savings of his own. Both had become zealous florists, and thrifty, respectable men; but the thing which surprised both of them most was that they had been able to save at all.
It is in the letters themselves however rather than in these desultory comments of mine that the story of these two years of earnest combat with the great problem of our day must be studied. Short as the time was, it was broken by visits to France, to Scotland, to Guernsey, and by his election as Member of Parliament for the borough of Newark. But even these visits and his new parliamentary position were meant to be parts of an effort for the regeneration of our poorer classes. His careful examination of the thrift of the peasantry of the Channel Islands, his researches into the actual working of the "Assistance Publique" in Paris, the one remarkable speech he delivered in Parliament on the subject of vagrancy, were all contributions to this great end. In the midst of these labours a sudden attack of his old disease forced him to leave England on a long sea-voyage, and within a fortnight of his landing in Australia he died at Melbourne. His portrait hangs in the school which he built, and rough faces as they gaze at it still soften even into tears as they think of Edward Denison.
SKETCHES IN SUNSHINE.
CANNES AND ST. HONORAT.
In a colloquial sort of way we talk glibly enough of leaving England, but England is by no means an easy country to leave. If it bids us farewell from the cliffs of Dover, it greets us again on the quay of Calais. It would be a curious morning's amusement to take a map of Europe, and mark with a dot of red the settlements of our lesser English colonies. A thousand Englands would crop up along the shores of the Channel or in quiet nooks of Normandy, around mouldering Breton castles or along the banks of the Loire, under the shadow of the Maritime Alps or the Pyrenees, beneath the white walls of Tunis or the Pyramids of the Nile. During the summer indeed England is everywhere—fishing in the fiords of Norway, sketching on the Kremlin, shooting brigands in Albania, yachting among the Cyclades, lion-hunting in the Atlas, crowding every steamer on the Rhine, annexing Switzerland, lounging through Italian galleries, idling in the gondolas of Venice. But even winter is far from driving England home again; what it really does is to concentrate it in a hundred little Britains along the sunny shores of the South. Each winter resort brings home to us the power of the British doctor. It is he who rears pleasant towns at the foot of the Pyrenees, and lines the sunny coasts of the Riviera with villas that gleam white among the olive groves. It is his finger that stirs the camels of Algeria, the donkeys of Palestine, the Nile boats of Egypt. At the first frosts of November the doctor marshals his wild geese for their winter flitting, and the long train streams off, grumbling but obedient, to the little Britains of the South.
Of these little Britains none is more lovely than Cannes. The place is a pure creation of the health-seekers whose gay villas are thrown fancifully about among its sombre fir-woods, though the "Old Town," as it is called nowadays, remains clinging to its original height, street above street leading up to a big bare church of the Renascence period, to fragments of mediaeval walls and a great tower which crowns the summit of the hill. At the feet of this height lie the two isles of Lerins, set in the blue waters of the bay; on the east the eye ranges over the porphyry hills of Napoul to the huge masses of the Estrelles; landwards a tumbled country with bright villas dotted over it rises gently to the Alps. As a strictly winter resort Cannes is far too exposed for the more delicate class of invalids; as a spring resort it is without a rival. Nowhere is the air so bright and elastic, the light so wonderfully brilliant and diffused. The very soil, full of micaceous fragments, sparkles at our feet. Colour takes a depth as well as a refinement strange even to the Riviera; nowhere is the sea so darkly purple, nowhere are the tones of the distant hills so delicate and evanescent, nowhere are the sunsets so sublime. The scenery around harmonizes in its gaiety, its vivacity, its charm with this brightness of air and light. There is little of grandeur about it, little to compare in magnificence with the huge background of the cliffs behind Mentone or the mountain wall which rises so steeply from its lemon groves. But everywhere there is what Mentone lacks—variety, largeness, picturesqueness of contrast and surprise. Above us is the same unchanging blue as there, but here it overarches gardens fresh with verdure and bright with flowers, and houses gleaming white among the dark fir-clumps; hidden little ravines break the endless tossings of the ground; in the distance white roads rush straight to grey towns hanging strangely against the hill-sides; a thin snow-line glitters along the ridge of the Maritime Alps; dark purple shadows veil the recesses of the Estrelles.
Nor is it only this air of cheerfulness and vivacity which makes Cannes so pleasant a spring resort for invalids; it possesses in addition an advantage of situation which its more sheltered rivals necessarily want. The high mountain walls that give their complete security from cold winds to Mentone or San Remo are simply prison walls to visitors who are too weak to face a steep ascent on foot or even on donkey-back, for drives are out of the question except along one or two monotonous roads. But the country round Cannes is full of easy walks and drives, and it is as varied and beautiful as it is accessible. You step out of your hotel into the midst of wild scenery, rough hills of broken granite screened with firs, or paths winding through a wilderness of white heath. Everywhere in spring the ground is carpeted with a profusion of wild-flowers, cistus and brown orchis, narcissus and the scarlet anemone; sometimes the forest scenery sweeps away, and leaves us among olive-grounds and orange-gardens arranged in formal, picturesque rows. And from every little height there are the same distant views of far-off mountains, or the old town flooded with yellow light, or islands lying gem-like in the dark blue sea, or the fiery hue of sunset over the Estrelles.
Nor are these land-trips the only charm of Cannes. No one has seen the coast of Provence in its beauty who has not seen it from the sea. A sail to the isles of Lerins reveals for the first time the full glory of Cannes even to those who have enjoyed most keenly the large picturesqueness of its landscapes, the delicate colouring of its distant hills, the splendour of its sunsets. As one drifts away from the shore the circle of the Maritime Alps rises like the framework of some perfect picture, the broken outline of the mountains to the left contrasting with the cloud-capt heights above Turbia, snow-peaks peeping over the further slopes between them, delicate lights and shadows falling among the broken country of the foreground, Cannes itself stretching its bright line of white along the shore. In the midst of the bay, the centre as it were of this exquisite landscape, lie the two isles of Lerins. With the larger, that of St. Marguerite, romance has more to do than history, and the story of the "Man in the Iron Mask," who was so long a prisoner in its fortress, is fast losing the mystery which made it dear even to romance. The lesser and more distant isle, that of St. Honorat, is one of the great historic sites of the world. It is the starting point of European monasticism, whether in its Latin, its Teutonic, or its Celtic form, for it was by Lerins that the monasticism of Egypt first penetrated into the West.
The devotees whom the fame of Antony and of the Coenobites of the Nile had drawn in crowds to the East returned at the close of the fourth century to found similar retreats in the isles which line the coasts of the Mediterranean. The sea took the place of the desert, but the type of monastic life which the solitaries had found in Egypt was faithfully preserved. The Abbot of Lerins was simply the chief of some thousands of religious devotees, scattered over the island in solitary cells, and linked together by the common ties of obedience and prayer. By a curious concurrence of events the coenobitic life of Lerins, so utterly unlike the later monasticism of the Benedictines, was long preserved in a remote corner of Christendom. Patrick, the most famous of its scholars, transmitted its type of monasticism to the Celtic Church which he founded in Ireland, and the vast numbers, the asceticism, the loose organization of such abbeys as those of Bangor or Armagh preserved to the twelfth century the essential characteristics of Lerins. Nor is this all its historical importance. What Iona is to the ecclesiastical history of Northern England, what Fulda and Monte Cassino are to the ecclesiastical history of Germany and Southern Italy, that this Abbey of St. Honorat became to the Church of Southern Gaul. For nearly two centuries, and those centuries of momentous change, when the wreck of the Roman Empire threatened civilization and Christianity with ruin like its own, the civilization and Christianity of the great district between the Loire, the Alps, and the Pyrenees rested mainly on the Abbey of Lerins. Sheltered by its insular position from the ravages of the barbaric invaders who poured down on the Rhone and the Garonne, it exercised over Provence and Aquitaine a supremacy such as Iona till the Synod of Whitby exercised over Northumbria. All the more illustrious sees of Southern Gaul were filled by prelates who had been reared at Lerins; to Arles, for instance, it gave in succession Hilary, Caesarius, and Virgilius. The voice of the Church was found in that of its doctors; the famous rule of faith, "quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus," is the rule of Vincent of Lerins; its monk Salvian painted the agony of the dying Empire in his book on the government of God; the long fight of semi-Pelagianism against the sterner doctrines of Augustin was chiefly waged within its bounds.
Little remains to illustrate this earlier and more famous period of the monastic history of Lerins which extends to the massacre of its monks by Saracen pirates at the opening of the eighth century. The very look of the island has been changed by the revolutions of the last hundred years. It is still a mere spit of sand, edged along the coast with sombre pines; but the whole of the interior has been stripped of its woods by the agricultural improvements which are being carried on by the Franciscans who at present possess it, and all trace of solitude and retirement has disappeared. A well in the centre of the island and a palm-tree beside the church are linked to the traditional history of the founders of the abbey. Worked into the later buildings we find marbles and sculptures which may have been brought from the mainland, as at Torcello, by fugitives who had escaped the barbaric storm. A bas-relief of Christ and the Apostles, which is now inserted over the west gate of the church, and a column of red marble which stands beside it, belong probably to the earliest days of the settlement at Lerins. In the little chapels scattered over the island fragments of early sarcophagi, inscriptions, and sculpture have been industriously collected and preserved. But the chapels themselves are far more interesting than their contents. Of the seven which originally lined the shore, two or three only now remain uninjured; in these the building itself is either square or octagonal, pierced with a single rough Romanesque window, and of diminutive size. The walls and vaulting are alike of rough stonework. The chapels served till the Revolution as seven stations which were visited by the pilgrims to the island, but we can hardly doubt that in these, as in the Seven Chapels at Glendalough, we see relics of the earlier coenobitic establishment.
The cloister of the abbey is certainly of a date later than the massacre of the monks, which took place according to tradition in the little square of wild greensward which lies within it; but the roughness of its masonry, the plain barrel roof, and the rude manner in which the low, gloomy vaulting is carried round its angles, are of the same character as in the usual tenth-century buildings of Southern Gaul. With the exception of the masonry of its side walls there is nothing in the existing remains of the abbey church itself earlier than its reconstruction at the close of the eleventh century. The building has been so utterly wrecked that little architectural detail is left; but the broad nave, with its narrow side aisles, the absence, as in the Aquitanian churches, of triforium and clerestory, and the shortness of the choir space, give their own individual mark to St. Honorat. Of the monastic buildings directly connected with the church only a few rooms remain, and these are destitute of any features of interest. They are at present used as an orphanage by the Franciscans whom the Bishop of Frejus, by whom the island was purchased some fifteen years ago, has settled there as an agricultural colony, and whose reverence for the relics around them is as notable as their courtesy to the strangers who visit them. If it is true that the island narrowly escaped being turned into a tea-garden and resort for picnics by some English speculators, we can only feel a certain glow of gratitude to the Bishop of Frejus. The brown train of the eleven brothers as we saw them pacing slowly beneath the great caroub-tree close to the abbey, or the row of boys blinking in the sunshine as they repeat their lesson to the lay-brother who acts as schoolmaster, jar less roughly on the associations of Lerins than the giggle of happy lovers or the pop of British champagne.
There is little interest in the later story of St. Honorat, from the days of the Saracen massacre to its escape from conversion into a tea-garden. The appearance of the Moslem pirates at once robbed it of its old security, and the cessation of their attacks was followed by new dangers from the Genoese and Catalans who infested the coast in the fourteenth century. The isle was alternately occupied by French and Spaniards in the war between Francis and Charles V.; it passed under the rule of Commendatory abbots, and in 1789, when it was finally secularized, the four thousand monks of its earlier history had shrunk to four. Perhaps the most curious of all the buildings of Lerins is that which took its rise in the insecurity of its mediaeval existence. The Castle of Lerins, which lies on the shore to the south of the church, is at once a castle and an abbey. Like many of the great monasteries of the East, its first object was to give security to its inmates against the marauders who surrounded them. Externally its appearance is purely military; the great tower rises from its trench cut deep in the rock, a portcullis protects the gate, the walls are pierced with loopholes and crowned with battlements. But within, the arrangements, so far as it is possible to trace them in the present ruined state of the building, seem to have been purely monastic. The interior of the tower is occupied by a double-arched cloister, with arcades of exquisite first-pointed work, through which one looks down into the little court below. The visitor passes from this into the ruins of the abbot's chapel, to which the relics were transferred for security from the church of St. Honorat, and which was surrounded by the cells, the refectory, and the domestic buildings of the monks. The erection of the castle is dated in the twelfth century, and from this time we may consider the older abbey buildings around the church to have been deserted and left to ruin; but we can hardly grumble at a transfer which has given us so curious a combination of military and monastic architecture in the castle itself.
Something of the feudal spirit which such a residence would be likely to produce appears in the abbot's relations with the little town of Cannes, which formed a part of his extensive lordship on the mainland. Its fishers were harassed by heavy tolls on their fishery, and the rights of first purchase in the market and forced labour were rigorously exacted by the monastic officers. It is curious to compare, as one's boat floats back across the waters of the bay, the fortunes of these serfs and of their lords.
SKETCHES IN SUNSHINE.
CARNIVAL ON THE CORNICE.
Carnival in an ordinary little Italian town seems, no doubt, commonplace enough to those who have seen its glories in Rome—the crowded Corso, the rush of the maddened horses, the firefly twinklings of the Maccoletti. A single evening of simple fun, a few peasants laughing in the sunshine, a few children scrambling for bonbons, form an almost ridiculous contrast to the gorgeous outburst of revelry and colour that ushers in Lent at the capital. But there are some people after all who still find a charm in the simple and the commonplace, and to whom the everyday life of Italy is infinitely pleasanter than the stately ceremonial of Rome. At any rate the stranger who has fled from Northern winters to the shelter of the Riviera is ready to greet in the homeliest Carnival the incoming of spring. His first months of exile have probably been months of a little disappointment. He is far from having found the perpetual sunshine which poets and guide-books led him to hope for. He has shivered at Christmas just as he shivered at home, he has had his days of snowfall and his weeks of rain. If he is thoroughly British, he has growled and grumbled, and written to expose "the humbug of the sunny South" in the Times; if he is patient, he has jotted down day after day in his diary, and found a cold sort of statistical comfort in the discovery that the sunny days after all outnumbered the gloomy ones. The worst winter of the Riviera, he is willing to admit, would be a very mild winter at home, but still, after each concession to one's diary and common sense, there remains a latent feeling of disappointment and deception.
But Carnival sweeps all this feeling away with the coming of the spring. From the opening of February week follows week in a monotony of warm sunshine. Day after day there is the same cloudless cope of blue overhead, the same marvellous colour in the sea, the same blaze of roses in the gardens, the same scent of violets in every lazy breath of air that wanders down from the hills. Every almond-tree is a mass of white bloom. The narcissus has found a rival along the terraces in the anemone, and already the wild tulip is preparing to dispute the palm of supremacy with both. It is the time for picnics, for excursions, for donkey-rides, for dreams beneath the clump of cypresses that shoot up black into the sky, for siestas beneath the olives. It is wonderful what a prodigious rush of peace and good temper follows on the first rush of spring. The very doctors of the winter resort shake hands with one another, the sermons of the chaplain lose their frost-bitten savour and die down into something like charity, scandal and tittle-tattle go to sleep in the sunshine. The stolid, impassive English nature blooms into a life strangely unlike its own. Papas forget their Times. Mammas forget their propriety. The stout British merchant finds himself astride of a donkey, and exchanging good-humoured badinage with the labourers in the olive-terraces. The Dorcas of Exeter Hall leaves her tracts at home, and passes without a groan the pictured Madonna on every wall. Carnival comes, and completes the wreck of the proprieties. The girls secure their window and pelt their black-bearded Professor in the street below without dread of a scolding on the "convenances." The impassive spinster whose voice never rises at home above the most polite whisper screams with delight at the first sugarplum that hits her, and furtively supplies her nieces with ammunition to carry on the war. "It is such fun, isn't it, papa?" shout the boys as they lean breathless over the balcony, laughing and pelting at the crowd that laughs and pelts back again. And papa, who "puts down" fairs in England, and wonders what amusement people can find in peepshows and merry-go-rounds, finds himself surprised into a "Very jolly, indeed!"
It is the same welcome to the spring that gives its charm to the Carnival in the minds of the Italians themselves. To the priest of course Carnival is simply a farewell to worldly junketings and a welcome to Lent, but like every other Church festival it is flinging off its ecclesiastical disguise and donning among the people themselves its old mask as a sheer bit of nature-worship. The women still observe Lent, and their power as housekeepers forces its observance to a certain extent on their husbands and sons. The Italian shrugs his shoulders and submits in a humorous way to what is simply a bit of domestic discipline, revenges himself by a jest on the priesthood, and waits with his quiet "pazienza" till the progress of education shall have secured him a wife who won't grudge him his dinner. But Lent is no reality to him, and spring is a very real thing indeed. The winter is so short that the whole habit of his life and the very fabric of his home is framed on the apparent supposition that there is no such thing as winter at all. His notion of life is life in the open air, life in the sunshine. The peasant of the Cornice looks on with amazement at an Englishman tramping along in the rain. A little rainfall or a little snow keeps every labourer at home with a murmur of "cattivo Dio" between his teeth. A Scotchman or a Yorkshireman wraps his plaid around him and looks with contempt on an idle race who are "afraid of a sprinkle." But the peasant of North Italy is no more of an idler than the peasant of the Lowlands. The truth is, that both he and his home are absolutely unprepared for bad weather. His clothes are thin and scanty. His diet is low. The wonder is how he gets through a hard day's work on food which an English pauper would starve upon. He has no fireplace at home, and, if he had, he has no fuel. Wood is very dear, and coal there is none. If he gets wet through there is no hearth to dry himself or his clothes at. Cold means fever, and fever with low diet means death. Besides, there is little loss in staying at home on rainy days. In England or the Lowlands the peasant farmer who couldn't "bide a shower" would lose half the year, but a rainy day along the Cornice is so rare a thing that it makes little difference in the year's account.
It is much the same with the townsman, the trader, the professional man. When work in the shop or office is over his life circles round the cafe. Society and home mean for him the chatty, gesticulating group of friends camped out round their little tables on the pavement under the huge awning that gives them shade. When winter breaks up the pleasant circle, and the dark, chilly evenings drive him, as we say, "home," he has no home to flee unto. He is not used to domestic life, or to conversation with his wife or his children. Above all there is no fire, no "hearth and home." Going home in fact means going to bed. An Italian doctor or an Italian lawyer knows nothing of the cosy evenings of the North, of the bright fire, the brighter chat round it, or the quiet book till sleep comes. Somebody has said truly enough that if a man wanted to see human life at its best he would spend his winters in England and his summers in Italy. We have so much winter that we have faced it, made a study of it, and beaten it. Our houses are a great nuisance in warm weather, but their thick walls and close-fitting windows and broad fireplaces are admirably adapted for cold. Italians, on the other hand, have so little winter that when the cold does come it is completely their master. The large, dark, cool rooms that are so grateful in July are simply ice-houses in December. The large windows are full of crevices and draughts. An ordinary Italian positively dreads a fire from his knowledge of the perils it entails in rooms so draughty as Italian rooms commonly are. He infinitely prefers to rub his blue little hands and wait till this inscrutable mystery of bad weather be overpast. But it is only the thought of what he suffers during the winter, short as it is in comparison with our own, that enables us to understand the ecstasy of his joy at the reappearance of the spring. Everybody meets everybody with greetings on the warmth and the sunshine. The mother comes down again to bask herself at every doorstep, and the little street is once more alive with chat and laughter. The very beggars exchange their whine for a more cheerful tone of insidious persuasion. The women sing as they jog down the hill-paths with the big baskets of olives on their heads. The old dispossessed friar slumbers happily by the roadside. The little tables come out on to the pavement, and the society of the place forms itself afresh into buzzing groups of energetic conversers. The dormouse-life of winter is over, and the spring and the Carnival has come.
Carnival in a little Italian town, as we have said, is no very grand thing, and as a mere question of fun it is no doubt amusing only to people who are ready to be amused. And yet there is a quaint fascination in it as a whole, in the rows of old women with demure little children in their laps ranged on the stone seats along the bridge, the girls on the pavement, the grotesque figures dancing along the road, the harlequins, the mimic Capuchins, the dominoes with big noses, the carriages rolling along amidst a fire of sugarplums, the boys darting in and out and smothering one with their handfuls of flour, the sham cook with his pots and pans wreathed with vine-branches, the sham cavalier in theatrical cloak and trunk hose who dashes about on a pony, the solemn group tossing a doll to a church-like chant in a blanket, the chaff and violet bunches flung from the windows, the fun and life and buzz and colour of it all. It is something very different, one feels, from the common country fair of home. In the first place it is eminently picturesque. As one looks down from the balcony through a storm of sugarplums the eye revels in a perfect feast of colour. Even the russet-brown of every old woman's dress glows in the sunshine into a strange beauty. Every little touch of red or blue in the girls' head-dresses shines out in the intense light. As the oddly attired maskers dart in and out or whirl past in the dance the little street seems like a gay ribbon of shifting hues winding between its grey old houses with touches of fresh tints at every window and balcony. The crimson caps of the peasants stand out in bold relief against the dark green of the lemon-garden behind them. Overhead the wind is just stirring in the big pendant leaves of the two palm-trees in the centre of the street, and the eye once caught by them ranges on to the white mass of the town as it stands glowing on its hill-side and thence to the brown hilltops, and the intense blue of the sky.
The whole setting of the scene is un-English, and the scene itself is as un-English as its setting. The fun, the enjoyment, is universal. There is nothing of the complicated apparatus which an English fair requires, none of the contrivances to make people laugh—the clowns, the cheap-jacks, the moveable theatres, the vans with fat women and two-headed calves, the learned pigs, the peepshows, the peripatetic photographers, the weighing-machines, the swings, the merry-go-rounds. And so there are none of the groups of vacant faces, the joyless chawbacons lounging gloomily from stall to stall, the settled inanity and dreariness of the crowd that drifts through an English fair. An English peasant goes to be amused, and the clown finds it wonderfully hard work to amuse him. The peasant of Italy goes to Carnival to amuse himself and to amuse everybody else. He is full of joyousness and fun, and he wishes everybody to be as funny and as joyous as himself. He has no notion of doing his merriment by deputy. He claps his mask on his face or takes his bag of flour in his hand, and is himself the fun of the fair. His neighbour does precisely the same. The two farmers who were yesterday chaffering over the price of maize meet each other in Carnival as Punch and Harlequin. Every boy has his false nose or his squeaking whistle. The quiet little maiden whom you saw yesterday washing her clothes in the torrent comes tripping up the street with a mask on her face. The very mothers with their little ones in their laps throw in their contribution of smart speeches and merry taunts to the fun of the affair. It is wonderful how simple the elements of their amusement are and how perfectly they are amused. A little masquerading, a little dancing, a little pelting with flour and sugarplums, and everybody is as happy as possible.
And it is a happiness that is free from any coarse intermixture. The badinage is childish enough, but it has none of the foul slang in which an English crowd delights to express its notions of humour. The girls bandy "chaff" with their disguised lovers, but the "chaff" is what their mothers might hear. There is none of the brutal horseplay of home. Harlequin goes by with his little bladder suspended from a string, but the dexterous little touch is a touch and no more. The tiny sugarplums rain like hail on one's face, but there is the fun of catching them and seeing the children hunt after them in the dust. The flour-pelting is the hardest to bear, but the annoyance is redeemed by the burst of laughter from the culprit and the bystanders. It is a rare thing to see anybody lose his temper. It is a yet rarer thing to see anybody drunk. The sulky altercations, the tipsy squabbles, of Northern amusements are unknown. The characteristic "prudence" of the Italian is never better displayed than in his merriment. He knows how far to carry his badinage. He knows when to have done with his fun. The tedious length of an English merry-making would be unintelligible to him; he doesn't care to spoil the day's enjoyment by making a night of it. A few hours of laughter satisfy him, and when evening falls and the sunshine goes, he goes with the sunshine.
It is in the Carnival that one sees most conspicuously displayed that habit of social equality which is one of the special features of Italian life. Nothing is more unlike the social jealousy of the Frenchman, or the surly incivility with which a Lancashire operative thinks proper to show the world that he is as good a man as his master. In either case one feels the taint of a mere spirit of envious levelling, and a latent confession that the levelling process has still in reality to be accomplished. But the ordinary Italian has nothing of the leveller about him. The little town is proud of its Marchese and of the great palazzo that has entertained a King. It is a matter of public concern when the Count gambles away his patrimony. An Italian noble is no object of jealousy to his fellow-citizens, but then no one gives himself less of the airs of a privileged or exclusive caste. Cavour was a popular man because, noble as he was, he would smoke a cigar or stop for a chat with anybody. The Carnival brings out this characteristic of Italian manners amusingly enough. The mask, the disguise, levels all distinctions. The Count's whiskers are white with the flour just flung at him by the town-crier. The young nephews of the Baron are the two harlequins who are exchanging badinage with the group of country girls at the corner. A general pelting of sugarplums salutes the appearance of the Marchese's four-in-hand with the Marchese himself in an odd mufti on the box.
Social equality is possible, because among rich and poor alike there is the same social ease. Barber or donkey-driver chats to you with a perfect frankness and unconsciousness of any need of reserve. In both rich and poor, too, there is the same social taste and refinement. The coarse dress of the peasant girl is worn with as native a dignity as the robe of a queen. An unconscious elegance breathes through the very disguises of the Carnival, grotesque as many of them are. The young fellow who has wreathed himself with flowers and vine-leaves shows a knowledge of colour and effect which an artist might envy him. But there is not one among the roughest of the peasants or of the townsfolk who has not that indescribable thing we call manner, or who would betray our insular awkwardness when we speak to a lord. And, besides this social equality, there is a family equality too. In England old people enjoy fun, but it is held to be indecorous in them to afford amusement to others. A Palmerston may be a jester at eighty, but the jest must never go beyond words. But in an Italian Carnival the old claim just as much a part in the fun as the young. Grandfathers and grandmothers think it the most natural thing in the world to turn out in odd costumes to give a good laugh to the grandchildren. Papa pops on the most comical mask he can find, and walks down the street arm-in-arm with his boy. In no country perhaps is the filial regard stronger than in Italy; nowhere do mothers claim authority so long over their sons. But this seems to be compatible with a domestic liberty and ease which would be impossible in the graver nations of the North. If once we laughed at our mother's absurdities a mother's influence would be gone. But an Italian will laugh and go on reverencing and obeying in a way we should never dream of. Altogether, it is wonderful how many sides of social life and national character find their illustration in a country carnival.
SKETCHES IN SUNSHINE.
TWO PIRATE TOWNS OF THE RIVIERA.
The view of Monaco, as one looks down on it from the mountain road which leads to Turbia, is unquestionably the most picturesque among all the views of the Riviera. The whole coast-line lies before us for a last look as far as the hills above San Remo, headland after headland running out into blue water, white little towns nestling in the depth of sunny bays or clinging to the brown hill-side, villas peeping white from the dark olive masses, sails gleaming white against the purple sea. The brilliancy of light, the purity and intensity of colour, the clear freshness of the mountain air, tempered as it is by the warm sun-glow, make the long rise from Mentone hard to forget. Mentone itself steals out again and again from under its huge red cliffs to look up at us; we pass by Roccabruna, half rock, half village, hanging high on the hill-side; we leave the orange groves beneath us studded with golden fruit; even the silvery wayward olives fail us, even the pines grow thin and stunted. At last the mountain rises bare above us with only a red rock jutting here and there from its ashen-coloured front. We reach the top, and right in our road rises a vast fragment of Roman masonry, the tower of Turbia, while, thousands of feet beneath, Monaco glows "like a gem" in its setting of dark blue sea. We are on the track of "The Daisy," and the verse of Tennyson's gay little poem comes back to us:—
What Roman strength Turbia showed In ruin, by the mountain road; How like a gem, beneath, the city Of little Monaco basking glowed.
Monaco stands on a promontory of rock which falls in bold cliffs into the sea; as one climbs to it from the bay one sees the citadel with its huge bastions frowning on the white buildings of the palace, the long line of grey, ivy-crested walls topping the cliffs, and above them the mass of the little town, broken by a single campanile and a few cypresses. Its situation at once marks the character of the place. It is the one town of the Riviera which, instead of lying screened in the hollow of some bay, as though eager to escape from pirate or Saracen, juts boldly out into the sea as if on the look-out for prey. Its grim walls, the guns still mounted and shot piled on its battlements, mark the pirate town of the past. At its feet, in trim square of hotel and gambling-house, with a smart Parisian look about it as if the whole had been just caught up out of the Boulevards and dropped on this Italian coast, lies the new Monaco, the pirate town of the present.
Even the least among Italian cities yields so much of interest in its past that we turn with disappointment from the history of Monaco. The place has always been a mere pirate haunt, without a break of liberty or civic life; and yet there is a certain fascination in the perfect uniformity of its existence. The town from which Caesar sailed to Genoa and Rome vanished before the ravages of the Saracens, and the spot remained desert till it passed by Imperial cession to Genoa, and the Genoese Commune erected a fort which became a refuge alternately for its Guelf or Ghibelline exiles, its Spinolas or its Grimaldis. A church of fine twelfth-century work is the only monument which remains of this earlier time; at the opening of the fourteenth century Monaco passed finally to the Grimaldis, and became in their hands a haunt of buccaneers. Only one of their line rises into historic fame, and he is singularly connected with a great event in English history. Charles Grimaldi was one of the foremost leaders in the Italian wars of his day; he passed as a mercenary into the service of France in her combat with Edward III., and his seventy-two galleys set sail from Monaco with the fifteen thousand Genoese bowmen who appear so unexpectedly in the forefront of the battle of Crecy. The massacre of these forces drove him home again to engage in attacks on the Catalans and Venetians and struggles with Genoa, till the wealth which his piracy had accumulated enabled him to add Mentone and Roccabruna to his petty dominions. It is needless to trace the history of his house any further; corsairs, soldiers of fortune, trimming adroitly in the struggles of the sixteenth century between France and Spain, sinking finally into mere vassals of Louis XIV. and hangers-on at the French Court, the family history of the Grimaldis is one of treason and blood—brother murdering brother, nephew murdering uncle, assassination by subjects avenging the honour of daughters outraged by their master's lust.
Of the town itself, as we have said, there is no history at all; it consists indeed only of a few petty streets streaming down the hill from the palace square. The palace, though spoilt by a gaudy modern restoration, is externally a fine specimen of Italian Renascence work, its court painted all over with arabesques of a rough Caravaggio order, while the State-rooms within have a thoroughly French air, as if to embody the double character of their occupants, at once Lords of Monaco and Ducs de Valentinois. The palace is encircled with a charming little garden, a bit of colour and greenery squeezed in, as it were, between cliff and fortress, from which one looks down over precipices of red rock with the prickly pear clinging to their clefts and ledges, or across a rift of sea to the huge bare front of the Testa del Cane with gigantic euphorbias, cactus, and orange-gardens fringing its base. A bribe administered to Talleyrand is said to have saved the political existence of Monaco at the Congress of Vienna: but it is far more wonderful that, after all the annexations of late years, it should still remain an independent, though the smallest, principality in the world. But even the Grimaldis have not managed wholly to escape from the general luck of their fellow-rulers; Mentone and Roccabruna were ceded to France some few years back for a sum of four million francs, and the present lord of Monaco is the ruler of but a few streets and some two thousand subjects. His army reminds one of the famous war establishment of the older German princelings; one year indeed to the amazement of beholders it rose to the gigantic force of four-and-twenty men; but then, as we were gravely told by an official, "it had been doubled in consequence of the war." Idler and absentee as he is, the Prince is faithful to the traditions of his house; the merchant indeed sails without dread beneath the once dreaded rocks of the pirate haunt; but a new pirate town has risen on the shores of its bay. It is the pillage of a host of gamblers that maintains the heroic army of Monaco, that cleanses its streets, and fills the exchequer of its lord.
There is something exquisitely piquant in the contrast between the gloomy sternness of the older robber-hold and the gaiety and attractiveness of the new. Nothing can be prettier than the gardens, rich in fountains and statues and tropical plants, which surround the neat Parisian square of buildings. The hotel is splendidly decorated and its cuisine claims to be the best in Europe; there is a pleasant cafe; the doors of the Casino itself stand hospitably open, and strangers may wander without a question from hall to reading-room, or listen in the concert-room to an excellent band which plays twice a-day. The salon itself, the terrible "Hell" which one has pictured with all sorts of Dantesque accompaniments, is a pleasant room, gaily painted, with cosies all round it and a huge mass of gorgeous flowers in the centre. Nothing can be more unlike one's preconceived ideas than the gambling itself, or the aspect of the gamblers around the tables. Of the wild excitement, the frenzy of gain, the outbursts of despair which one has come prepared to witness, there is not a sign. The games strike the bystander as singularly dull and uninteresting; one wearies of the perpetual deal and turn-up of the cards at rouge-et-noir, of the rattle of the ball as it dances into its pigeonhole at roulette, of the monotonous chant of "Make your game, gentlemen," or "The game is made." The croupiers rake in their gains or poke out the winnings with the passive regularity of machines; the gamblers sit round the table with the vacant solemnity of undertakers. The general air of the company is that of a number of well-to-do people bored out of their lives, and varying their boredom with quiet nods to the croupier and assiduous prickings of little cards.
The boredom is apparently greatest at rouge-et-noir, where the circle is more aristocratic and thousands can be lost and won in a night. Everybody looks tired, absent, inattentive; nobody takes much notice of his neighbour or of the spectators looking on; nobody cares to speak; a finger suffices to direct the croupier to push the stake on to the desired spot, a nod or a look to indicate the winner. The game goes on in a dull uniformity; nobody varies his stake; a few napoleons are added to or subtracted from the heaps before each as the minutes go on; sometimes a little sum is done on a paper beside the player; but there is the same impassive countenance, the same bored expression everywhere. Now and then one player gets quietly up and another sits quietly down. But there is nothing startling or dramatic, no frenzies of hope or exclamations of despair, nothing of the gambler of fiction with "his hands clasped to his burning forehead," and the like. To any one who is not fascinated by the mere look of rolls of napoleons pushed from one colour to another, or of gold raked about in little heaps, there is something very difficult to understand in the spell which a gaming-table exercises. Roulette is a little more amusing, as it is more intelligible to the looker-on. The stakes are smaller, the company changes oftener, and is socially more varied. There is not such a dead, heavy earnestness about these riskers of five-franc pieces as about the more desperate gamblers of rouge-et-noir; the outside fringe of lookers-on bend over with their stakes to back "a run of luck," and there is a certain quiet buzz of interest when the game seems going against the bank. There is always someone going and coming, over-dressed girls lean over and drop their stake and disappear, young clerks bring their quarter's salary, the casual visitor "doesn't mind risking a few francs" at roulette.
But even the excitement of roulette is of the gravest and dullest order. The only player who seems to throw any kind of vivacity into his gambling is a gaudy little Jew with heavy watch-chain, who vibrates between one table and another, sees nothing of the game save the dropping his stake at roulette and then rushing off to drop another stake at rouge-et-noir, and finds time in his marches to spare a merry little word to a friend or two. But he is the only person who seems to know anybody. Men who sit by one another year after year never exchange a word. There is not even the air of reckless adventure to excite one. The player who dashes down his all on any part of the table and trusts to fortune is a mere creature of fiction; the gambler of fact is a calculator, a man of business, with a contempt for speculation and a firm belief in long-studied combination. Each has his little card, and ticks off the succession of numbers with the accuracy of a ledger. It is in the careful study of these statistics that each believes he discovers the secret of the game, the arrangement which, however it may be defeated for a time by inscrutable interference of ill-luck, must in the end, if there is any truth in statistics, be successful. One looks in vain for the "reckless gambler" one has read about and talked about, for "reckless" is the very last word by which one would describe the ring of business-like people who come day after day with the hope of making money by an ingenious dodge.
Their talk, if one listens to it over the dinner-table, turns altogether on this business-like aspect of the question. Nobody takes the least interest in its romantic or poetic side, in the wonderful runs of luck or the terrible stories of ruin and despair which form the stock-in-trade of the novelist. The talk might be that of a conference of commercial travellers. Everybody has his infallible nostrum for breaking the bank; but everybody looks upon the prospect of such a fortune in a purely commercial light. The general opinion of the wiser sort goes against heavy stakes, and "wild play" is only talked about with contempt. The qualities held in honour, so far as we can gather from the conversation, are "judgment," which means a careful study of the little cards and a certain knowledge of mathematics, and "constancy"—the playing not from caprice but on a definite plan and principle. Nobody has the least belief in "luck." A winner is congratulated on his "science." The loser explains the causes of his loss. A portly person who announces himself as one of a company of gamblers who have invested an enormous capital on a theory of winning by means of low stakes and a certain combination excites universal interest. Most of the talkers describe themselves frankly as men of business. No doubt at Monaco, as elsewhere, there is the usual aristocratic fringe—the Russian prince who flings away an estate at a sitting, the half-blind countess from the Faubourg St. Germain, the Polish dancer with a score of titles, the English "milord." But the bulk of the players have the look and air of people who have made their money in trade. It is well to look on at such a scene, if only to strip off the romance which has been so profusely showered over it. As a matter of fact nothing is more prosaic, nothing meaner in tone, nothing more utterly devoid of interest, than a gambling-table. But as a question of profit the establishment of M. Blanc throws into the shade the older piracy of Monaco. The Venetian galleons, the carracks of Genoa, the galleys of Marseilles, brought infinitely less gold to its harbour than these two little groups of the fools of half a continent.
SKETCHES IN SUNSHINE.
THE WINTER RETREAT.
It is odd, when one is safely anchored in a winter refuge to look back at the terrors and reluctance with which one first faced the sentence of exile. Even if sunshine were the only gain of a winter flitting, it would still be hard to estimate the gain. The cold winds, the icy showers, the fogs we leave behind us, give perhaps a zest not wholly its own to Italian sunshine. But the abrupt plunge into a land of warmth and colour sends a strange shock of pleasure through every nerve. The flinging off of wraps and furs, the discarding of greatcoats, is like the beginning of a new life. It is not till we pass in this sharp, abrupt fashion from the November of one side the Alps to the November of the other that we get some notion of the way in which the actual range and freedom of life is cramped by the "chill north-easters" in which Mr. Kingsley revelled. The unchanged vegetation, the background of dark olive woods, the masses of ilex, the golden globes of the orange hanging over the garden wall, are all so many distinct gains to an eye which has associated winter with leafless boughs and a bare landscape. One has almost a boyish delight in plucking roses at Christmas or hunting for violets along the hedges on New Year's Day. There are chill days of course, and chiller nights, but cold is a relative term and loses its English meaning in spots where snow falls once or twice in a year and vanishes before midday. The mere break of habit is delightful; it is like a laughing defiance of established facts to lounge by the seashore in the hot sun-glare of a January morning. And with this new sense of liberty comes little by little a freedom from the overpowering dread of chills and colds and coughs which only invalids can appreciate. It is an indescribable relief not to look for a cold round every corner. The "lounging" which becomes one's life along the Riviera or the Bay of Naples is only another name for the ease and absence of anxiety which the mere presence of constant sunshine gives to life.
Few people, in fact, actually "lounge" less than the English exiles who bask in the sun of Italy. Their real danger lies in the perpetual temptation to over-exertion which arises from the sense of renewed health. Every village on its hilltop, every white shrine glistening high up among the olives, seems to woo one up the stony paths and the long hot climb to the summit. But the relief from home itself, the break away from all the routine of one's life, is hardly less than the relief from greatcoats. It is not till our life is thoroughly disorganized, till the grave mother of a family finds herself perched on a donkey, or the habitue of Pall Mall sees himself sauntering along through the olive groves, that one realizes the iron bounds within which our English existence moves. Every holiday of course brings this home to one more or less, but the long holiday of a whole winter brings it home most of all. England and English ways recede and become unreal. Old prepossessions and prejudices lose half their force when sea and mountains part us from their native soil. It is hard to keep up our vivid interest in the politics of Little Pedlington, or to maintain our old excitement over the matrimonial fortunes of Miss Hominy. It becomes possible to breakfast without the last telegram and to go to bed without the news of a fresh butchery. One's real interest lies in the sunshine, in the pleasure of having sunshine to-day, in the hope of having sunshine to-morrow.
But really to enjoy the winter retreat one must keep as much as possible out of the winter retreat itself. Few places are more depressing in their social aspects than these picturesque little Britains. The winter resort is a colony of squires with the rheumatism, elderly maidens with delicate throats, worn-out legislators, a German princess or two with a due train of portly and short-sighted chamberlains, girls with a hectic flush of consumption, bronchitic parsons, barristers hurried off circuit by the warning cough. The life of these patients is little more than the life of a machine. As the London physician says when he bids them "good-bye," "The nearer you can approach to the condition of a vegetable the better for your chances of recovery." All the delicious uncertainties and irregularities that make up the freedom of existence disappear. The day is broken up into a number of little times and seasons. Dinner comes at midday, and is as exact to its moment as the early breakfast or the "heavy tea." And between each meal there are medicines to be taken, inhalations to be gone through, the due hour of rest to be allotted to digestion, the other due hour to exercise.
The air of the sick-room lingers everywhere about the place; one catches, as it were, the far-off hush of the Campo Santo. Life is reduced to its lowest expression; people exist rather than live. Every one remembers that every one else is an invalid. Voices are soft, conversation is subdued, visits are short. There is a languid, sickly sweetness in the very courtesy of society. Gaiety is simply regarded as a danger. Every hill is a temptation to too long and fatiguing a climb. No sunshine makes "the patient" forget his wraps. No coolness of delicious shade moves him to repose. His whole energy and watchfulness is directed to the avoidance of a chill. Life becomes simply barometrical. An east wind is the subject of public lamentation; the vast mountain range to the north is admired less for its wild grandeur than for the shelter it affords against the terrible mistral. Excitement is a word of dread. Distance itself takes something of the sharpness and vividness off from the old cares and interests of home. The very letters that reach the winter resort are doctored, and "incidents which might excite" are excluded by the care of correspondents: Mamma only hears of Johnny's measles when Johnny is running about again. The young scapegrace at Oxford is far too considerate to trouble his father, against the doctor's orders, with the mention of his failure in the schools. News comes with all colour strained and filtered out of it through the columns of 'Galignani.' The neologian heresy, the debate in Convocation which would have stirred the heart of the parson at home, fall flat in the shape of a brown and aged 'Times.' There are no "evenings out." The first sign of eve is the signal for dispersion homewards, and it is only from the safe shelter of his own room that the winter patient ventures to gaze on the perilous glories of the sunset. The evenings are in fact a dawdle indoors as the day has been a dawdle out, a little music, a little reading of the quiet order, a little chat, a little letter-writing, and an early to bed.
It is this calm monotony of day after day at which the world of the winter resort deliberately aims, a life like that of the deities of Epicurus, untouched by the cares or interests of the world without. The very gaiety is of the same subdued and quiet order—drives, donkey-rides, picnics of the small and early type. An air of slow respectability pervades the place; the bulk of the colonists are people well-to-do, who can afford the expense of a winter away from home and of a villa at L150 the season. The bankrupt element of Boulogne, the half-pay element of Dinan or Avranches, is as rare on the Riviera as the loungers who rejoice in the many-changing toilets of Arcachon or Biarritz. The quiet humdrum tone of the parson best harmonises with that of the winter resort, and parsons of all sorts abound there.
But the chaplain is not here, as in other little Britains, the centre of social life; he is superseded by the doctor. The winter resort in fact owes its origin to the doctor. The little village or the country town looks with awe upon the man who has discovered for it a future of prosperity, at whose call hosts of rich strangers come flocking from the ends of the earth, at whose bidding villas rise white among the olives, and parades stretch along the shore. "I found it a fishing hamlet," the doctor may say with Augustus, "and I leave it a city." It is amusing to see the awful submission which the city-builder expects in return. The most refractory of patients trembles at the threat of his case being abandoned. The doctor has his theories about situation. You are lymphatic, and are ordered down to the very edge of the sea; you are excitable, and must hurry from your comfortable lodgings to the highest nook among the hills. He has his theories about diet, and you sink obediently to milk and water. His one object of hostility and contempt is your London physician. He tears up his rival's prescriptions with contempt, he reverses the treatment. He sighs as you bid him farewell to return to advice which is so likely to prove fatal. The London physician, it is true, hints that though the oracle of the winter resort is a clever man he is also a quack. But a quack soars into a greatness beyond criticism when he creates cities and rules hundreds of patients with his nod.
SKETCHES IN SUNSHINE.
San Remo, though youngest in date, bids fair to become the most popular of all the health resorts of the Riviera. At no other point along the coast is the climate so mild and equable. The rural quiet and repose of the place form a refreshing contrast with the Brighton-like gaiety of Nizza or Cannes; even Mentone looks down with an air of fashionable superiority on a rival almost destitute of promenades, and whose municipality sighs in vain for a theatre. To the charms of quiet and sunshine the place adds that of a peculiar beauty. The Apennines rise like a screen behind the amphitheatre of soft hills that enclose it—hills soft with olive woods, and dipping down into gardens of lemon and orange, and vineyards dotted with palms. An isolated spur juts out from the centre of the semicircle, and from summit to base of it tumbles the oddest of Italian towns, a strange mass of arches and churches and steep lanes, rushing down like a stone cataract to the sea. On either side of the town lie deep ravines, with lemon gardens along their bottoms, and olives thick along their sides. The olive is the characteristic tree of San Remo. As late as the sixteenth century the place was renowned for its palms; a palm tree stands on the civic escutcheon, and the privilege of supplying the papal chapel with palm branches in the week before Easter is still possessed by a family of San Remese. But the palm has wandered off to Bordighera, and the high price of oil during the early part of this century has given unquestioned supremacy to the olive. The loss is after all a very little one, for the palm, picturesque as is its natural effect, assumes any but picturesque forms when grown for commercial purposes, while the thick masses of the olive woods form a soft and almost luxurious background to every view of San Remo.
What strikes one most about the place in an artistic sense is its singular completeness. It lies perfectly shut in by the circle of mountains, the two headlands in which they jut into the sea, and the blue curve of the bay. It is only by climbing to the summit of the Capo Nero or the Capo Verde that one sees the broken outline of the coast towards Genoa or the dim forms of the Estrelles beyond Cannes. Nowhere does the outer world seem more strangely far-off and unreal. But between headland and headland it is hardly possible to find a point from which the scene does not group itself into an exquisite picture with the white gleaming mass of San Remo for a centre. Small too as the space is, it is varied and broken by the natural configuration of the ground; everywhere the hills fall steeply to the very edge of the sea and valleys and ravines go sharply up among the olive woods. Each of these has its own peculiar beauty; in the valley of the Romolo for instance, to the west of the town, the grey mass of San Remo perched on a cliff-like steep, the rocky bed of the torrent below, the light and almost fantastic arch that spans it, the hills in the background with the further snow range just peeping over them, leave memories that are hard to forget. It is easy too for a good walker to reach sterner scenes than those immediately around; a walk of two hours brings one among the pines of San Romolo, an hour's drive plunges one into the almost Alpine scenery of Ceriana. But for the ordinary frequenters of a winter resort the chief attractions of the place will naturally lie in the warmth and shelter of San Remo itself. Protected as it is on every side but that of the sea, it is free from the dreaded mistral of Cannes and from the sharp frost winds that sweep down the torrent-bed of Nizza. In the earlier part of the first winter I spent there the snow, which lay thick in the streets of Genoa and beneath even the palms of Bordighera, only whitened the distant hilltops at San Remo. Christmas brought at last a real snowfall, but every trace of it vanished before the sun-glare of midday. From sunset to sunrise indeed the air is sometimes bitterly cold, but the days themselves are often pure summer days.